Valle dei Mulini


Useful Information

Location: Viale Enrico Caruso, Sorrento
(40.624956, 14.376435)
Open: no restrictions.
[2021]
Fee: free.
[2021]
Classification: GorgeGorge
Light: n/a
Dimension:  
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: yes
Bibliography:  
Address: Valle dei Mulini, Viale Enrico Caruso, Sorrento, 80067, Tel: +39-, Fax: +39-,
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

13th cty first mills built.
1866 Piazza Tasso constructed.
1940 mills abandoned.
JUN-2006 discovered by the Belgian photographer Reginald Van de Velde.
2014 featured on instagram as “photo of the day.”
2015 listed on Atlas Obscura.
2019 restoration started.
MAY-2020 restoration stopped after massive protests and lawsuit by the WWF.

Description

photography
19th century lithograph by Villeneuve after a drawing by Jules Coignet. Public Domain.

Valle dei Mulini (Valley of the Mills) is a narrow gorge locate in the middle of the city Sorrento. It formed some 35,000 years ago after the eruption of the Phlegraean Fields. This is an active volcano west of Naples, probably a supervolcano, near the town Pozzuoli on the northern end of the gulf of Naples. Sorrento is located on the opposite side of the gulf, on the southern end. The volcanic ash from the eruption covered the peninsula, and being rather soft it was soon dissected by various rivers which formed lots of narrow gorges from the center of the peninsula to the sea. Such gorges separate the towns of Meta, Piano di Sorrento, Sant’Agnello, and Sorrento. The Valle dei Mulini was such a gorge in the center of Sorrento. It was used to construct mills using the power of the river, and so a 16th-century warehouse and 19th-century once bustling with millworkers, carpenters, and laundry women existed in the gorge.

The situation changed in 1866, when the Piazza Tasso was constructed at the lower end of the gorge. The lower end of the gorge which opened onto the coast was filled with debris and volcanic tufa, covered with cement, and paved with pebbles. Piazza Tasso became an iconic landmark of Sorrento. But it also cut the valley from constant sea breezes, the microclimate in the gorge became hot and humid. It was impossible to work under this conditions, and the mill and warehouse were abandoned, lush vegetation started to fill the valley. A thick carpet of green covered the abandoned structures.

The Belgian photographer Reginald Van de Velde discovered this abandoned and overgrown building on a hot, sunny morning in June 2006. He is actually specialized on ruin photography, and he made some great shots of the six-story building with its cover of thick layers of moss, sprawling ferns, and climbing, creeping plants of all sorts. The picture actually became known a decade later, when Instagram featured it as a “photo of the day.” The popularity grew, and probably this was the reason why the city attempted to "renovate" the abandoned buildings. Unfortunately the company did the wrong thing by removing all the plants and restoring the building and thus completely destroying the atmosphere of decay. The backlash on the web was massive, and the authorities stopped all work on the site, but the site is currently more like an unfinished building than an enchanted jungle.

To have a look at the gorge, you simply walk down Viale Enrico Caruso and then Via Fuorimura from the Piazza Tasso. The gorge is on the rights side. As far as we know it is not possible to enter the valley.